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Posts published by “Ana Young”

A Durham Moment: ‘They’re not property. They’re family members.’

Three pounds of white and black fluff rests on Megan’s chest. Her pink nose hides until she turns around, ears raised, and opens her eyes, revealing dilated pupils. The kitten, Sharlyne, licks the volunteer’s hand and then puts her head back down, shy from the attention she has drawn in the past few minutes. While the lap kitten enjoys her relaxing cuddles, her best friend, Sunni, plays with a piece of tape on their crate. Some visitors notice the small orange shorthair, tiny enough to fit into cupped hands. “Look how precious!” one says with a smile. 

It’s early Sunday afternoon at Petco in southern Durham, where Independent Animal Rescue (IAR) is hosting its weekly cat adoption event. Sharlyne and Sunni are three-month-old kittens who need a home. Events like these give the kittens exposure beyond adoption pages on the website. But despite how cute the pair are, there are currently no applications to adopt them.

“Sunni got an application yesterday, but it was someone who was only interested in a single kitten — and IAR does not allow single kitten adoptions,” says Jamie, a woman with curly blonde hair who has volunteered with the organization since September. Without a playmate, kittens in their first six months of life typically don’t learn socialization skills. For that reason, kittens under six months must be adopted with another kitten or into a household with a cat under two years old. 

Jamie is fostering two cats: Anna and Charlie, a mother-son duo. Anna, a gray, green-eyed beauty, is at Sunday’s event to “represent the family,” as her son is attention-shy. Just as for Sharlyne and Sunni, there are currently no applications to adopt Anna or Charlie. However, unlike two playful kittens, they are harder to place because they’re older. Anna is 12 years old, and Charlie is 11. 

Anna, perched in her crate near the store entrance, looks around, pondering the people coming in. Aside from her lack of jumpiness, she doesn’t look like an older cat at first glance. Her coat hasn’t thinned, her eyes are still bright. Many people approach her and give her belly scratches or rub her head. She closes her eyes when petted: a cat’s sign of trust.

Anna and Charlie were previously in a family with dogs. However, when the pandemic broke out, the family realized how scared the two cats were of the dogs. They decided to give the cats to a family friend. The cats then spent time at the Cat Tales Cat Cafe, an adoption cafe in Chapel Hill where the animals get to roam free, and were fostered for a few weeks through IAR before coming to stay with Jamie in May.

Next to Anna’s crate lies Jocelyn, a gray cat with one working eye. Her left eye is recessed and pink from an injury. A woman in a flowy paisley sundress pets the one-year-old cat.

“What happened to her?” she asks Jamie. Jocelyn was injured before coming to the organization, Jamie explains, likely from a rock falling off a car. Though her eyes don’t look like those of the other cats, she still sees fine and doesn’t let her injury bother her, Jamie says. The woman massages Jocelyn’s back, and the cat lifts her tail and butt, her favorite place to get scratched.

Perhaps the most popular cats at the event are a litter of two-pound, two-month-old kittens: Pascal, Pearl, Petal, Petunia and Pochi. Their mother, a one-year-old tan and black-striped domestic shorthair named Penny, sits comfortably in the crate next to them. 

Petunia, gray and white, green-eyed and fluffy, with beautiful fur and long whiskers, is highly admired by event visitors. Pearl looks like a younger version of her mother, with ears as large as her face. Petal, less fluffy and with no white patches, cuddles with Pascal, a black kitten, at the back of the crate. Near the front, Pochi, a friendly, inquisitive black cat, nestles next to Petunia and Pearl.

Kate, her brown hair scrunched into a bun, is fostering all six of the cats. She also has two cats of her own at home.

“It’s the best part of my day to go [home to see the cats]….” Kate says. “It gives you kind of a purpose — it did for me. I battled with depression and anxiety all the time. And so that was the big reason I started fostering. 

“In Boston, I hated where I was living. I wasn’t happy with my job. So I started fostering, and it made me feel so much better that I was able to start looking for a new job, and then I moved down here. And then now that I’ve decided to do it again, it really just — it just makes you so happy.”

There are 16 cats at Sunday’s event. A few more lie in crate displays on the wall of the event space, where they will stay for a few weeks to get more exposure with Petco customers. Not every cat at the meet-and-greet is fostered by the volunteers who organized it. Through a program called Advocat, volunteers can bring other volunteers’ foster cats so more animals can attend the event. 

That’s how Sharlyne and Sunni came to the event; same with Watson and Sissy. Carla, a volunteer in blue jeans and a green IAR T-shirt, puts colorful breakaway collars with faux flowers on the black cats — Sissy, Watson, Dahlia and Daphne.

“People are still superstitious about black cats,” Carla says. “And then, when they don’t move, you don’t see them. So they have the perfect camouflage. Unless you put a dollop of color in the form of a necklace on them, then they are hiding in plain sight.”

Even with more color, fewer people visit the older black cats than visit the kittens. Carla does her best to charm the visitors, introducing them to as many of the black cats as she can and talking about them in a passionate, loving tone

She’s fostering Dahlia and Daphne, as well as a gray 11-month-old cat named Argo. In total, she has nine cats at home, each with its own room. Once the cats feel at home, they begin to love their caretaker — making it hard to say goodbye when adoption day finally comes, Carla says.

“You have to tell yourself they’re moving on, and you’re not going to be able to foster if you don’t let them go,” she says. 

It’s currently not peak adoption season — that comes in early winter. Still, hosting adoption events throughout the year makes a huge difference, Carla says. Potential volunteers learn about the organization, the fostering program and the adoption process. And maybe, after attending an event, visitors can also spread the word about animals that need a home.

Carla looks tenderly at the cats she’s fostering.

“They’re not property,” she says. “They’re family members.”

Above: Visitors check out kittens Sharlyne and Sunni at a recent cat adoption event. Photos by Ana Young—The 9th Street Journal.

A Durham Moment: A pageant where camp is queen

Story by Ana Young, photos by Maddie Wray 

At Camp Bushy Valley, the word “camp” is an understatement. 

A Victorian beaver — in a red burlesque skirt under a black dress, a sequined sailors cap, steampunk glasses and a sunflower umbrella — marches with a parade. Eliza DuBose, a fish-tailed beaver in seaweed beads, flamingo sunglasses and an aquamarine octopus hat, prances around the campground. Another beaver wears rainbow sunglasses, a green fedora with flowers and a butterfly shirt. The setting looks and feels like a scene from Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” 

It’s June 4, and the Beaver Queen Pageant, a fundraiser for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, is celebrating its 18th birthday. Hundreds of neighbors, volunteers and visitors come together for an afternoon in the meadow at Duke Park to celebrate the pageant’s first year in person since 2019. It’s one large village party featuring parades, dancing, environmental activism and an actual pageant crowning the newest Beaver Queen. 

Long before the queen is chosen, bubbles blow from an entrance tent and funk music plays from the speakers while the crowds make their way towards an amphitheater. Food trucks quickly line Acadia Street next to the park. The line for a Durham staple, LocoPops, extends at least 20 feet.

Early in the afternoon, entourages representing the pageant’s contestants walk around asking attendees to “bribe” the judges so their beaver can win. Votes cost five dollars each. Charlee Halpheen and Susan Bowker carry a Tinder-themed photo booth and ask people to vote for Tinder Beaver. Others simply encourage pageant-goers to head to the voting tent, where those who vote at least 20 times can choose a home-crafted beaver tail to keep.

Mike Shiflett, a Durham resident since 1984, talks to neighbors from a tent labeled “Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association.” Dressed in a red long-sleeve button-down with the label “steward,” the white-haired, retired business owner passes out pamphlets offering information about Ellerbe Creek. He explains how the pageant came to be.

“They were widening [I-85], and one of the things that they were trying to do is mitigate flooding. And who causes flooding? Beavers,” says Shiflett, a longtime volunteer with the association. “So this neighborhood, Duke Park, found out that the North Carolina Department of Transportation was going to trap beavers. And when you trap beavers — you end up killing them.”

Residents were outraged, he remembers. Standing nearby, an old friend Barry Ragin, president of the Duke Park Neighborhood Association at the time, chimes in. 

“We discovered that the state has a beaver management program,” Ragin recalls. “We got the county commissioners to vote to join the beaver management program. The beavers were saved. 

“They ended up moving behind the Compare Foods — the shopping center just on the other side of [I-85]. So there’s a huge beaver lodge there. One of the biggest on the East Coast.”

A year after saving the beavers, the neighborhood hosted its first Beaver Queen Pageant at the meadow. However, it wasn’t until its second year that the Beaver Queen Pageant became a fundraiser.

“There was a 14-year-old who competed…,” Ragin says. “Her dad, the late Bill Anderson… went to a number of the judges and said, ‘Here’s one dollar — vote for my daughter to be the queen.’

“And at the end of the day, we had something like 10 or 15 dollars. And we didn’t know what to do with it. So we gave it to Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. And then the next year, we decided we would actually try to raise some money, and we raised closer to $100. And then the third….raised closer to $1,000. And now, I understand it’s getting close to $30,000 a year.”

Shifflet and Ragin aren’t the only long-time pageant supporters in attendance. Bill Anderson’s daughter, Jill Anderson, is one of this year’s pageant’s head organizers, along with Greg Palmer. The very first Beaver Queen, Beverly Woody — whose real name is Richard Mullinax — also attends, dressed in scrubs and a name tag that says OGBQ (Original Gangster Beaver Queen). The former Beaver Queen walks around the campground, offering male and female condoms and lube to hundreds of people watching the stage. 

“Here’s some lubrication,” says Mullinax, who now lives in California. “Make sure and keep the wetlands wet, and make sure and protect the wetlands. You know we want to share — we also want to make sure we protect the wetlands for future use.”

In the foreground, the show begins as the Bulltown Strutters lead a parade, marching down towards the stage from a hill. People in the crowd dance along with the train as the emcee makes his way toward the microphone. He’s wearing a 1960s-esque Boy Scout counselor uniform with a homemade beaver tail. Soon enough, he introduces another emcee who calls himself Dante.

Before the actual contest can begin, Dante leads the crowd in “The Blessing of the Kits.” He calls upon all families with children to make their way to the stage. He then leads the children in an environmentally-focused prayer. 

“To Mother Nature, we pray for the planet,” the blessing begins. “Breath of life, from whom all order was created. The whole of creation bears witness to you. Teach us to respect all creatures and all people and increase our gratitude for your loving providence….” 

“Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon plays as the crowd dances along. Then the six judges — each representing a brewery sponsor — come out dressed as historical figures and pop-culture characters, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Tooth Beaver Ginsburg) and Julius Caesar (Chewlius Caesar). Each judge states what they’re looking for in a Beaver Queen.

Finally, it’s time to meet the contestants: Satine Bieber, Beavabundancer, Tinder Beaver, Pawryshnikov Gnawjinski (a.k.a. Ballet Beaver) and Velour Gnawsett Peltenham Riverdancer West (a.k.a. Velo, the Bicycling Beaver). 

Next comes the talent segment. One contestant blends a smoothie using a bicycle. Another performs Janelle Monae’s “Pynk.” Tinder Beaver sing-raps a song full of puns about dating apps. Another beaver dances while spraying perfume. Ballet Beaver dances to Swan Lake (of course). The judges deliberate and count the votes. 

In the end, each beaver receives a title. Satine Bieber has the Best Tail and Costuming, and Pawryshnikov Gnawjinski is the Best Talent. Beavabundancer is the Craftiest Beaver, Tinder Beaver is Miss Hygeniality and Velour Gnawsett Peltenham Riverdancer West has the Best Stage Presence. 

A prima donna ready to find a hunky beaver to settle down with takes the biggest prize. Tinder Beaver, with a social score of 533 and $2,590 raised, is voted queen.

She receives her crown — a pink bucket hat with felt pointy edges, sequins and hand-sewn animals. Then the song “Dancing Queen” by ABBA plays. Instead of “digging the dancing queen,” some organizers sing “digging the Beaver Queen.”

For the children in the audience, the win is out of a fairytale. They run up to Tinder Beaver to hug and congratulate her. She embraces them and the other contestants, smiling with surprise and shock. 

“I was so out of breath because my heart was going a million miles a minute,” says Tinder Beaver, whose real name is Alisa Hassinger. The first time she performed or practiced her talent was during the show, she explains.

“It was very surprising — but it was so much fun,” she exclaims.

 Then she heads back into the crowd to dance again.


Durham Bulls’ home run spree batters Nashville





Their home city’s heatwave may be easing this week, but the Durham Bulls’ bats continued to scorch the Nashville Sounds Thursday night, with a multi-home-run barrage that carried them to a 9-7 victory.

Led by newcomer Jordan Qsar, who belted two homers, the Bulls overwhelmed the Sounds with power hitting for the second game in a row at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. They’ve now hit 11 home runs in their last two games. Three have come off Qsar’s bat.

“I think at the end of the day, the only adjusting is probably – you know – new atmosphere, new territory,” said the outfielder, who played his fifth game for the Bulls Thursday night after coming from the Montgomery Biscuits. “But the game is the game. The only thing you can do….is keep doing what you’ve been doing, and just keep playing and sticking to your approach.”

On a cool evening that was a welcome respite from Durham’s recent 90-plus degree days, the Bulls homered half a dozen times. The night before, the Bulls’ five home runs catapulted them to a 17-4 walloping of the Sounds, who lead the Triple A’s International League West division.

The Bulls (27-24) occupy fourth place in the International East division.

After Nashville’s Mark Mathias started Thursday’s scoring with a two-run homer in the first inning, Qsar matched him in the second with a line-drive home run that also scored shortstop Xavier Edwards, another Bulls newcomer. 

And Edwards wasn’t finished. With Josh Lowe and Luke Raley on base in the third, he blasted a three-run homer, which Qsar and Jim Haley followed with back-to-back solo shots that propelled the Bulls to a 7-2 lead.

Not that the Sounds went quietly. In the fifth, Nashville designated hitter Garrett Whitley’s solo homer and Pablo Reyes’ bases-loaded walk trimmed the gap to 7-4. 

Even after the Bulls’ solo home runs by Jonathan Aranda and Lowe in the bottom of the fifth extended the lead to 9-4, Nashville didn’t go away. In the seventh, the Sounds loaded the bases and managed one run, when David Dahl scored on Mathias’ double play. Later that inning, Tyler White hammered a homer, slicing the lead to 9-7.

But Bulls relievers Seth Blair and Cristofer Ogando kept the Sounds off the board the rest of the game. Blair got five outs in the seventh and eighth innings, and Ogando blanked Nashville in the ninth. 

“We were throwing strikes [in] the seventh. And you know Blair and Ogando came in and they were throwing strikes….allowing the defense to play and they put up two big zeros to allow us to win the game,” Bulls manager Brady Williams said.

Pitcher Easton McGee, who threw five innings and gave up three runs, got the win and improved his record to 3-3. Ogando picked up the save. 

The six-game series continues tonight at 6:30 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.. 

“The more the merrier, because home runs are on the board,” Williams said of the Bulls’ recent long-ball hitting. “You know, the one thing a home run does is it electrifies the group, you know, and the dugout gets fired up.”

TOP: Durham Bulls Josh Lowe and Luke Raley score on an Xavier Edwards home run in the bottom of the third inning of Durham’s 9-7 win Thursday night over the Nashville Sounds. Photo by Ana Young, The 9th Street Journal.

Fans cheer the Durham Bulls during home opener, despite the score

Second baseman Isaac Paredes has just struck out to end the game, as the Durham Bulls lose to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. But fans don’t seem upset. They hang around, as the stadium lights dim and fireworks paint the sky. They smile. Heads lean on shoulders. Couples look at each other with shining eyes. Baseball season is back.

A home-opening loss — especially a 7-0 thumping — is nothing to celebrate, but new beginnings are. And that’s what 7,824 fans were doing Tuesday night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, where they enjoyed a clear, pleasant night that featured lots of energy and entertainment, most of which occurred off the field between innings.

Fans dressed in sumo-wrestler costumes — complete with enormous bellies —  raced along the third-base line. A local celebrity couple led the crowd in song. There were, of course, the usual goofy antics from the team mascot, Wool E. Bull.

Just before the opening pitch, fans watched a squadron of jets fly over the stadium after the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in honor of military men and women. Multicolored confetti floated down into the stands. 

“The major leagues and everything is so expensive. Hockey, baseball, whatever, are so expensive,” said Bart White, a Raleigh resident who has attended Bulls games for decades.  “This — you get a good bang for your buck. They do a great job anytime entertaining between innings. It’s great for families and kids.” 

Before the game, two long security lines stretched from the intersection of Blackwell Street and Jackie Robinson Drive, as hundreds of fans waited to enter the ballpark. Bulls employees ushered fans into the lines as they took photos with Wool E. Bull or waited for the rest of their group to arrive. Food trucks and heavy traffic lined the streets. Pop and country music blared from the speakers. 

College student Ike Perry was among about 50 people in the Bulls team store rifling through baseball caps, Bulls hockey jerseys and other merchandise. Near the stuffed Wool E. Bulls at the back of the store, Perry looked at shirts with his brother as they waited for their father. 

Perry hadn’t been to a game in three years. But his father got their family season tickets this year, so the Wake Forest resident hopes to catch every game. Like White, he was also excited to see that night’s off-field entertainment. 

“They used to get fans to come out and play with sumo suits and fight,” he remembers. He and his brother planned to enjoy hot dogs and beer. They also intended to search for ice cream served in Mason jars — which he remembers as a Bulls specialty.

Inside the stadium, an array of aromas greeted fans. They could buy virtually every kind of carnival food — cotton candy, funnel cakes, wings, hot dogs, pretzels, IPAs. As White’s friend, Tom Holmes, purchased an IPA, he said he was feeling “pretty damn confident. Their team is called the Jumbo Shrimp. We can beat the Shrimp.”

The Jumbo Shrimp apparently thought otherwise. In the first inning, outfielder Peyton Burdick slammed a solo home run. The game unraveled for the Bulls in the second inning, when Bulls starter Adrian De Horta and reliever Zack Erwin combined to allow two walks, three singles and a double as the Shrimp rocketed to a 6-0 lead. All after two outs.

“I mean, for us, it was trying to get to the fifth inning. Just with our starters — we don’t really have any starters right now,” Bulls manager Brady Williams said after the game. 

At the same time, Jacksonville starter Max Meyer pitched five hitless innings. The Bulls would finish the game with only two hits. 

Williams said the team has little experience together, with players arriving from other teams as late as last Sunday, April 3. 

“There’s things we’re going to do as far as team get-togethers or just trying to get to know each other as quick as we can,” Williams said.  “Once it happens, the chemistry will get better.”

Even after the game got away from the Bulls, the crowd stayed. Beginning in the top of the fifth,  fans started clapping when every Jacksonville player came to bat. The Jumbo Shrimp would score only one run the rest of the game. Maybe the fans should have used that tactic earlier.  

The Bulls, off to a 2-5 start, have five more games in their series with the Jumbo Shrimp at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park before traveling to Norfolk, Va., for their second road series. Last year, with an 86-44 record, the Bulls won their third Triple-A championship. The Bulls are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and last season, Durham’s best players moved up to play for the American League club. 

This year, the Bulls will play 150 games, instead of the 130 they played last season.

“Hopefully, we can continue to do what we’ve done over the last couple of years, which has been a lot of fun,” Williams says. The manager says he expects his team to improve and contend again for a championship.

 “Those are our goals every single season,” he said.

Above: Photo of the Durham Bulls’ home opener by Bill Adair — The 9th Street Journal